| Detroit Free Press
What Detroit Tigers’ Zack Short thinks about Kody Clemens, Spencer Torkelson
Detroit Tigers infielder Zack Short checks in Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, from spring training in Lakeland, Florida.
Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
Spring training’s slate of games officially starts Sunday with seven Grapefruit League matchups at 1:05 p.m., including the Detroit Tigers hosting the Philadelphia Phillies in Lakeland, Florida. (There are seven Cactus League matchups in Arizona starting around 3:05 p.m., in case two hours of Tigers baseball is all you can handle.)
While there are still a few dozen free agents out there — we see you, Yasiel Puig! — the majority of players have settled down with new teams, including 16 ex-Tigers (at last count).
Here’s a look at what new uniforms some ex-Tigers will be wearing, at least in March.
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C Alex Avila, Nationals
Avila made the final two in the hunt by his dad — Tigers general manager Al Avila —for a free-agent catcher after 23 games with the Twins in 2020. That stint proved he still owns a glove and a good eye, at least, if not an effective bat (nine hits and 11 walks in 62 plate appearances). Instead, he’ll head to D.C. on a one-year, $1.5 million deal to back up Yan Gomes.
1B C.J. Cron, Rockies
The .190 average wasn’t pretty, but seven extra-base hits — including four homers — and eight RBI in 13 games gave Tigers fans hope before a knee injury ended his season. He signed a $1 million minor-league deal on Feb. 16 and has a good shot to break camp as the Rockies’ starting first baseman.
RHP Mike Fiers, A’s
A Tiger for 21 starts in 2018, Fiers seems to have found a home in Oakland, where the Tigers sent him at the deadline that season. Coming off a 2020 campaign in which he posted a 4.58 ERA and 1.373 WHIP with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks in 59 innings (over 11 starts), the 35-year-old signed a one-year, $3.5 million on Feb. 16.
C Bryan Holaday, Diamondbacks
The ex-Tiger (2012-15, ’17) hit just .161 in 31 at-bats with the Orioles in 2020, but still scored a minor-league deal and a nonroster invite to Arizona’s camp this year at age 33.
SS Jose Iglesias, Angels (trade)
Iglesias has been well-traveled since his 2013-18 stint with the Tigers; he’ll be suiting up for his fourth team in four seasons after the Baltimore Orioles dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels in December. The Halos will be hoping the usually defensive-minded Iglesias brings his bat; the 31-year-old had a career year with the Orioles in 2020, with a .373/.400/.556 slash line. That includes 17 doubles in 142 at-bats, just a season after hitting 21 two-baggers in 504 at-bats with the Reds.
OF Matt Joyce, Phillies
The hits come and go — a .295 average in 2019 with the Braves, .252 with the Marlins last year — but the walks remain, with a .351 OBP in 2020. The 36-year-old picked up a minor-league deal from another familiar face: Former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who drafted Joyce to Detroit in 2005.
OF Cameron Maybin, Cubs
The Tigers traded Maybin for the third time last season, and just as Zack Short (trade No. 3) is no Miguel Cabrera (trade No. 1), Maybin wasn’t as effective with the Cubs (.669 OPS) as he was with the Tigers (.726) in 2020. After testing the market, Maybin returned to the Cubs on a minor-league deal on Feb. 19; it’s a crowded outfield in Chicago, with Joc Pederson and Jake Marisnick signing in the offseason, too — but the Cubs just let OF Phil Ervin go via waivers, so perhaps Maybin will stick in the Friendly Confines once again.
(Victor Alcantara was the return in trade No. 2, in 2016, in case you were wondering.)
C James McCann, Mets
McCann has made the Tigers’ decision to nontender him after the 2018 season look horrendous, with an All-Star nod in 2019 and a career year — .289/.360/.536 in 31 games — with the White Sox in 2020. That burst in 111 plate appearances made him one of the big winners in free agency; his four-year, $40.5 million contract was the seventh biggest in total money handed out this offseason.
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RHP Ivan Nova, Phillies
Nova lasted just 19 innings over four starts on his one-year deal with the Tigers before an injury ended his 2020 season; with an 8.53 ERA and 1.632 WHIP, that may have been best for both parties. Still, he’s in Phillies camp on a minor-league deal worth $1.5 million if he makes the big-league roster.
LHP Robbie Ray, Blue Jays
The Tigers dealt Ray after one season in December 2014 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he remained until the D-backs shipped him to the Blue Jays at the 2020 trade deadline. His 25 strikeouts, 14 walks and 4.79 ERA in 20⅔ innings with the Jays was apparently an impressive enough audition, as they re-signed the 29-year-old in early November to a one-year, $8 million deal.
UTIL Andrew Romine, Twins
Last seen in Detroit playing all nine positions in a single game in 2017, Romine (after spending all of 2019 in Triple-A) appeared in two late-September games in 2020, going 1-for-4 with a double for the Rangers. The Twins signed him to a minor-league deal on Tuesday; if he doesn’t make the club this time, he won’t have far to go, at least —Minnesota’s Triple-A club is now right across the Mississippi River, in St. Paul.
C Austin Romine, Cubs
Romine appeared to be making the most of his first chance as a starter on a one-year deal with the Tigers, hitting .291/.309/.418. But his performance (along with the Tigers’) cratered in September as he hit .157 with 24 strikeouts in 15 games. And so, back to a reserve role in Chicago with a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
LHP Drew Smyly, Braves
Dealt to Tampa Bay in 2014 as part of the Tigers’ deal for David Price, Smyly finally appears fully recovered from the arm injury that cost him all of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. His 26⅓ innings with the San Francisco Giants in 2020 — 42 strikeouts, nine walks and a 3.42 ERA — earned the 31-year-old a one-year, $11 million deal in Atlanta.
RHP Joakim Soria, Diamondbacks
Since being dealt in a 2015 deal that brought JaCoby Jones to Detroit, Soria has played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics, with whom he had a 2.82 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 22⅓ innings in 2020. Now 36, he signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal in Arizona on Feb. 6.
LHP Justin Wilson, Yankees
Wilson’s 3.66 ERA and 1.373 WHIP in 19⅔ innings with the Mets were less than impressive. But strip out the 56 times the Mets let him face a righty (to a .393 OBP), and you get three hits and two walks allowed in 30 plate appearances vs. lefties. No wonder he’s changing boroughs on a two-year deal that could be worth as much as $5.15 million.
RHP Jordan Zimmermann, Brewers
Zimmermann finished his five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers with just three appearances (two starts), returning from an injury in camp to allow five earned runs in 5⅔ September innings. He’s in camp with his home-state Brewers on a minor-league deal.
Still out there
OF Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes missed all of 2019 with an off-field foot injury caused by a tussle with a wild boar — no, really — took a massive pay cut to return in 2020, then skipped out on the Mets eight games (with two home runs and 15 strikeouts) into the season. We’re pretty sure the Mets won’t be in on him, but some other team might be, after his personal showcase, set for Tuesday.
RHP Shane Greene
After flaming out in the closer role after his 2019 deadline trade to Atlanta, Greene was quietly effective — 21 strikeouts, eight earned runs — in 27⅔ innings with the Braves in 2020. Greene is arguably the best relief option still on the market, meaning playoff hopefuls with bullpen holes, say, the Braves and Mets, have checked in.
RHP Rick Porcello
The Curse of Kate Upton? Porcello has a 4.87 ERA and 101 homers allowed in 110 starts with the Red Sox and Mets since swiping the 2016 AL Cy Young from Upton’s beau, former Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Porcello was mostly able to keep the ball in the yard — five homers in 59 innings — in 2020, his only season in New York, but he’s still looking for a job after he and the Tigers reportedly came close in talks this offseason.
RHP Anibal Sanchez
The fountain of youth Sanchez was dipping into over his 2018-19 seasons with the Braves and Marlins — with a 3.39 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 302⅔ innings — apparently ran dry in 2020 as Sanchez led the National League in earned runs allowed (39) in 53 innings over 11 starts. Sanchez reportedly popped up on his ex-boss Dombrowski’s radar in Philly last month.